A writer on Sesame Street has caused a stir on the internet after confirming that the characters Bert and Ernie were inspired by his own personal experiences.
In an interview with Queerty,Mark Saltzman, who wrote scripts and songs for Sesame Street between 1985 and 1998, said that the characters were based on his relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.
There has always been speculation about the sexuality of the characters and, although they sleep in separate beds in the same house, they are still two adult men who live together, share a strong bond, but constantly bicker like an old married couple.
In the interview Saltzman said:
I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay].
I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as ‘Bert and Ernie.
That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship.
How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not?
It's doubtful that many people would have a major issue with this statement and we're sure that more than a few long-term fans of the show would be delighted upon hearing this confirmation.
However, the Sesame Workshop, which is the nonprofit organisation that produces Sesame Street, put out a statement on Twitter on Tuesday basically saying that Saltzman is wrong and that Bert and Ernie have no sexual orientation.
It's unclear why the Sesame Workshop felt the need to contribute a counter statement to Saltzman's words, but their failure to embrace the idea of Bert and Ernie being gay, especially in this day and age, has caused some controversy.
@SesameWorkshop Alrighty then. Please disperse everyone. It's settled. We shall never address this issue again. Rem… https://t.co/NAD8BFraLO
Others have pointed out that to say that their puppets "do not have a sexual orientation" is a little hypocritical as Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog have been in a relationship for decades (Yes, we know their Muppets and not Sesame Street characters but it's still relevant).
Frank Oz, the voice actor who is best known for his work as Yoda on Star Wars and various Muppets and characters including Bert, weighed into the debate and asked if it really mattered?
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It's fine that he feels they are. They're not, of cou… https://t.co/DsslCMi5Bv
While there is probably a discussion to be had about if the sexual orientation of two fictional characters matters or not, surely the discussion about representation in 2018 is a far more important topic, especially when it comes to a children's programme.
This debate is likely to proceed for a little while longer, but we think actor Billy Eicher said it best.
I DON'T CARE IF BERT AND ERNIE ARE GAY I JUST WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY!!!!